Pro-European UK citizens sounded the alarm before the Brexit referendum about the loss of rights and freedoms on the exit from the EU. Many questioned the right of the UK government or the EU to rob us of our citizenship. There were and are no common EU provisions on the acquisition and loss of EU citizenship.
The Guardian reported, in December 2016, that the European Parliament’s chief negotiator said associate citizenship would be ‘on the table’ for talks over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The idea was first put forward by a fellow MEP from Luxembourg, Charles Goerens. A paragraph in the Parliament’s resolution on Brexit, adopted on 5 April, calls for some action to mitigate Britons’ loss of EU citizenship.
A petition asking for the inclusion of associate citizenship in Brexit negotiations and for the EU to offer UK citizens this option closed at 315,934 signatures. Pro-EU campaigners were very hopeful that the EU would support what 48% of the referendum voters were asking for.
In 2018, the Foreign Policy Centre examined the possibility of UK nationals being offered associate EU citizenship and concluded that there would be legal hurdles and it would be a challenge to the nature of citizenship. It would also create more inequalities amongst the UK population.
These hurdles would be surmountable with some political will, but the Leave-backing UK government did not and still does not show this will.
“The practical barriers to associate citizenship are not insurmountable. The political issues, however, require more careful consideration. The project would undoubtedly empower individuals and cities and, for this reason, has much to recommend it. While it will likely exacerbate existing economic and social divisions in the UK, the root cause of these lies elsewhere. These problems should be addressed, but they will not be solved by opposing associate citizenship. Yet, the project’s greatest advantage, that it will redefine the relationship between the individual and the state, is also its greatest political weakness. Those charged with negotiating Brexit stand to lose from associate citizenship. The project is therefore likely to fail for a lack of political will.”
In 2017, Roger Casales of New Europeans proposed another solution to the EU citizenship issue.
“European citizenship rights on the basis of permanent residency:
- The EU creates a Green Card scheme guaranteeing the package of rights that EU citizens currently enjoy by virtue of being a national of an EU member state.
- The UK (and EEA member states) would be invited to join the Green Card scheme based on reciprocal guarantees for EU 27 citizens.
- EEA and UK citizens with permanent residency status in EU member states would be eligible to apply for a Green Card.
- In time the scheme could be extended or modified to include all Third Country Nationals in the EU (on an opt-in basis member states participating in this aspect of the scheme).”
I am not aware of any decision by the EU to further this scheme, but in my article on the Motion by the Constitutional Committee of the EU Parliament, I describe proposals for solidifying EU citizenship.
In 2021, one of our Bylines editors wrote to Mr Goerens to ask for an update on his proposal of Associate EU citizenship for UK nationals:
“At the time you gave many of us loyal British Europeans hope, when you spoke up in support of a continuing “Associate” citizenship for us.
Sadly this has been hit into the long grass and all but disappeared. Did you yourself lose hope? Did you surrender to an apparent force majeure?
My own reading of the treaties suggests that
- the granting of citizenship is contingent on a nation’s membership of the Union; but
- there is no mechanism for removing or terminating that citizenship once granted.
Furthermore, it is the EU which bestows European citizenship, not the member state, wherefore the member state, or former member state, has no authority or competence to remove the aforesaid citizenship.
In which case the loss of my citizenship must have been an act of the European Union. However, I have yet to receive formal notification of that loss from Frau von der Leyen or from anyone else.
I’d like to know whether you agree, and, if so, what you might consider undertaking, in the light of your earlier assertions.”
Sadly, there has not been a response to this letter.
A pro European campaign group “Stay European” set up in 2020 aims to regain our lost rights and it has over 170,000 signatures. Maybe reaching millions of signatures might show the strength of our resolve.
Have we been robbed of our EU citizenship?
Joshua Silver, a British professor living in France, started a website before we left the EU, which asked people to give their views on the loss of their EU citizenship. The page has attracted a lot of attention and currently has 160,344 signatories.
The premise is:
“On 31 January 2020, the UK left the EU. The politicians and others who forced this undemocratic change on the 60% of us who wish to stay in the EU claim that leaving the EU could result in our EU Citizenship and Rights being snatched away – although the legal guidance we have so far received suggests that nobody has the legal power to remove our EU Citizenship and associated Rights.”
Request for help from the President of the European Parliament
On Tuesday 30 August 2022, EU case T-252/20 was submitted, based on the legal argument that our EU Citizenship is a permanent status which cannot therefore be summarily removed as a matter of law.
“However an ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 UK EU has only very recently led to new information that when she notified Article 50 to Donald Tusk on 29 March 2017, Mrs May had by then already been made aware by MI6 that Russian interference and money had rendered the June 2016 Referendum vote not free and fair, so that the vote would need to be rerun.
It seems that, acting with oligarchs and disaster capitalists, Mr Putin shares responsibility for the chaos of Brexit. UK politicians, such as the MPs May, Johnson, Gove and Stuart, as well as other British and foreign anti-EU actors have successfully sought to force the UK out of the EU using false arguments, lies, and anti-EU propaganda.“
Several UK MPs, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, took the case about Russian interference in UK politics to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. The interference by a foreign power has been established strongly enough to have prompted the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to ask the UK government to respond to the question whether the referendum was fair and free. The government was given until April this year to respond. I have not seen a reaction to date.
CJEU failed to protect our citizenship rights
Meanwhile, on 15 June 2023, the Press release about the appeal in the Court of Justice of the European Union in Josh Silver’s case T-252/20 was issued:
“The ECJ rejected our appeal to case T-252/20. With this rejection, it has now both been inconsistent in its statements about our case – which it had earlier indicated would in fact be heard – and in effect the Court has now also denied access to it for all 66 million UK EU Citizens, by choosing not to even hear our specific legal arguments even though they were brought in good time!”
The next step for the citizenship campaign, with the help of eminent lawyers, is to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The argument is that there has been a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the European Convention on Nationality. After more consultations, we can expect an update on how precisely the Human Rights of UK EU citizens has been breached by a court whose role should be to protect those rights.
Whether it will help those 48%+ of us who were fighting tooth and nail to retain our EU citizenship remains to be seen. After Theresa May’s speech in 2016 about citizens of the world being citizens of nowhere, I would rather say that for me EU citizenship means being a citizen of everywhere.